Her true name

She had her secret place at the top of the stairs, through a small door. It wasn’t as low as a teahouse door, but still enough to make you crawl. It was meant to keep out adults – those inflexible in body or mind (often one causes the other).

There was no latch on the door. That would invite trouble. Someone might see it as a treasure house and feel a need to break in. Again and again and again she learned the lesson. Don’t advertise, but don’t hide either. Those who had eyes to see and ears to hear with know beyond knowing and would be welcome.

Why did she feel the need for this secret place? Why could she not be herself, fully who God made her to be, in front of anyone else?

Certainly not the public. They weren’t worthy. They flocked to her like moths when she shone her light, drowning her out. They assumed she had special powers and brought all their illnesses to her to heal – confessing all their sins. This is why they complained to her all the time. This is why they only spoke negatively, telling her about their ungrateful relatives, new illness, or even how hot / cold / rainy or dry it is. They were bringing their illnesses to her for healing, without even knowing they were sick.Trouble was that they didn’t want the kind of healing she offered – the healing that she used for herself, straight from the True Healer. They wanted a quick fix and most importantly for someone else to do it.

This true healing was closer to having to walk to the rain forest, find a young tree, water and protect it from predators and climb it and harvest the leaves, then then befriend a herbalist and learn exactly how to make the tea. 

And then drink it every day.

It was that much work. 

Quick fixes, especially gotten from others, were how they were sick – why they were sick. The DIY life wasn’t what they wanted, but what they needed.

She got drained by them – and worse, they came to see her as the healer, and not the One God, the true Teacher and Master. Maybe this is why Moses lived in a tent outside the camp. Maybe that is why Jesus went away to deserted places to pray. They had to. Otherwise they were empty, drained dry. No refills, no replacement batteries. One and done, over and out.

But that way led to madness. Not just burnout, but burned up, to a crisp, gone. An empty house, useful to no one, especially God. So she made an appointment with herself for her sanctuary, her quiet space, away from everyone so she could be with her Beloved, the One who knew her by her true name.

Written 8/9/18

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Wednesday

Wednesday couldn’t come soon enough. That was the day of the apocalypse, the total collapse, the change above all changes. Liz knew there was no preparing for it, so she went on doing what she always did. No use freaking out. It was a final exam, not a pop quiz.

They all knew it was coming. Only those who took it seriously and remembered would make it through. The rest? Those who acted like there were no consequences, only reward and no punishment? May God have mercy on their souls.

Of course, she didn’t really know what side she’d sort out on. Nobody did until the tally was closed. Plenty who thought they were “in” would be in for a huge surprise. But not her. She was OK either way. She just wanted to get it over, even if it meant she was thrown into the fire instead of the storehouse. It meant no more wondering. No more waiting. It was kind of like going to the doctor for your diagnosis – were you healthy, or was it cancer? After a certain point it didn’t matter. It was the waiting that was the hardest, the not knowing, the between state. Better to be hot or cold, but not lukewarm.

Lukewarm was the indifference, the inattention, the plague of the world. Believe or don’t believe – but only after due consideration. Not the middle, the apathetic middle, where people unthinkingly land. Not making a choice is a choice, after all. Neglect your garden and no vegetables will grow. Better to have bare ground with nothing sown than ground that is ignored and untended – filled with weeds and half shriveled produce, half eaten by insects grateful for the feast. No feast for those who pledge and don’t act. Better to say you won’t and do, than say you will and don’t.

But tomorrow was the day. Tomorrow and no other. August 8, 2018. She knew. It wasn’t numerology. Perhaps it was something like knowing a storm was coming. She could feel it in her bones. Nature spoke to nature. In this case, Spirit spoke to spirit. The breath of God was coming to sweep over the world, as it had in the beginning. Then it had passed over the waters and made a place for the land to rise. Tomorrow it will pass over that land and bring the waters back. But this time it will be the water of the Word, a baptism and cleansing of body and soul.

Not everyone would survive this. It would be a re-birth, and awakening unlike that which anyone could describe, for when they were born they had no previous words. This experience would be beyond words too – how would you explain something that hasn’t happened before but you have waited for all of your life, and before?

Maybe it was a bit like a hard wipe and reinstall of a computer. Or a remodel job that involves a complete gutting. Nothing would be the same except the outside.

Written 8/7/18

Choice.

She had a choice. Step across the threshold and into the past, or stay where she was. The idea of moving day by excruciating day into the unknown future filled her with a nameless dread. Was it anxiety, or ennui? The world was at a crossroads. One path led to hope. The other – it didn’t bear considering. Chaos was in the past – civil war too, if she wanted to be honest. They’d all seen the news reports of violence in the streets in other countries – foreign countries, less civilized countries. War here was tidy. People marched. They protested with signs. They never killed, for god’s sake.

But she could see that was about to end. Peace was soon to be a distant memory. There was nothing that could be done to avoid the upcoming bloodshed – citizen again citizen -divided along party lines.

For decades people had divided themselves – what football team they liked, whether they were dog or cat people. But in recent years there were more divisions – meat eater or vegetarian, liberal or conservative, religious or spiritual. Sometimes the lines blurred and people were in more than one group. Never did they stop to see their dividing themselves was dividing the nation. They were split asunder, falling apart, chaos. They had done it to themselves and it had gone on so long there was only war as the cure.

Sophia knew she could not be a part of it, but she also knew she could not move to another country. That would be running away, quitting, and she wasn’t a quitter. Her family had endured much change, mindfully, wisely. They’d kept records of it, all of the revolutions they lived through, the overthrows they’d observed. All present, yet not involved. Observers only, not participants. But how? They never told her. It was a family secret, so secret that they never spoke about it – not even to each other. It was too important. People might talk and then it would all be over.

Then they wouldn’t be able to help anyone. They were time weavers, but not all of them. The trait was genetic, but not every family member had it. So they never spoke about it. If the trait awakened in you, you knew what to do, just like how baby birds knew how to fly. Best not to put the idea of flying into any other creature’s head – one that didn’t have wings. Nothing good would come of that.

Sophia’s parents had hoped she’d be a weaver, but the signs didn’t appear with puberty as it had with them. Or if they had, she’d hidden them well.

Her parents were distant cousins. Many generations back a matriarch had realized they needed to shape the family tree to keep the trait strong. That was her special gift of weaving – to see the soft silver-blue line of power weave in and out of the bloodline. It would thicken here to a rope, thin here to a thread. Too thin and it would break forever and all would be lost. 

In her family you still asked the parents for permission to marry, but it was for the bloodline. The suitor might be wealthy and kind and of the right faith tradition, but if s/he didn’t have the gift, the marriage would only be allowed if the mate’s gift was strong enough to make up for the loss.It was a bit like a thoroughbred breeding program, but the stakes were a lot higher in this race.

Sophie had finally admitted to herself who and what she was in her 40s. After years of thinking she was mentally ill, she finally saw her vision as a gift and not a curse. She wasn’t crazy. She was simply in the wrong time, with the wrong people.

Prophets look crazy to those who refuse to see – those who are convinced of their own infallibility. She’d been called insane by a priest once. She left that church rather than be silent. His sin was before him now. She’d acted as she should, informing him of his danger. The path is narrow and the dangers are sure if you step from it. He’d assumed his own path and told himself he was right purely based on his title. “Reverend” was not revered, however. The title was a placeholder only – not a guarantee of holiness, or even of accuracy. A seminary degree didn’t ensure life without sin. In many ways it made it harder, because they knew better, or were supposed to.

Her family never entered the ministry, not in any ordained fashion, that was. It wouldn’t do to get paid for a gift they had freely received. They might have side work – being a counselor or social worker, a nutritionist or chiropractor. They helped people get back in the groove, get re-woven into the tapestry of life. 

But this doorway. Before she was able to See, it was just an entrance to the side patio. Now it was misty with time. She could see ‘now’ and ‘then’ simultaneously and saw the threads that were unraveled or cut short. She knew down in her bones which ones needed tending. Not all needed work. Some threads needed to be cut. Some lines needed to cross. But some were a mess and would lead to lines ending too soon.

How were the pyramids built? And Stonehenge? That information was part of the lost threads. It was best not to have too much continuity. People tended to get upset when they realized how insignificant they were. They like to think that history started with them. This is why each generation had to do its own genealogy. What did people why did people only know their living ancestors? Why was nothing written down?

Sophia knew only that it was time to cross the threshold and walk into time. Whether forwards or backwards made no difference. All that mattered now was that she remove herself from the sacred tapestry just long enough for a rest. She had a lot of work set before her with new timelines to weave in. She would need all her energy for the upcoming pattern.

Written early August 2018

Just time enough

Tomorrow and forever and yesterday. He opened the door to discover it was always just time enough – a beginning or ending but never the middle of anything. Between was not an option with this door. Endings were beginnings were endings, after all – a change of state, of place, of status. Water was always H2O even if it was solid or gas. And that is what he was – the state beyond those states, never arriving or leaving but just there. It had taken years to get to this point. He’d been here and forgotten once, but re-membered and re-collected. Now he knew that he had to do the work he did before just to stay.

This was part of the work. This door was his meeting, his group, his first-name-basis therapy that kept him from slipping back into old ways. He opened the door at least once a day, more if necessary but never nothing. Always once, at least. He opened it to see the chaos of all those who saw time as sequential, as past or future, and not as inconsequential, as meaningless as cataloging air. He called to them to escape through the narrow door, volunteered to sponsor them in this private club. No takers yet. They assumed the membership dues were beyond their means.

Separate but equal?

They had separate apartments, but the same house. Sometimes they would visit each other – a sleepover if you will. Never would they swap, and certainly not live together. That was unheard of.

They had tried that, like every other married couple. A bed was meant to be shared, even if the relationship was celibate. That alone was a shocker – that married people wouldn’t have sex. But why was it assumed they would? Was marriage solely for sex – to legitimize offspring, to stop straying? Sex without marriage was seen as immoral if not illegal. It broke apart society as well as homes. A committed couple, legally bound, was a guarantee of a partner for when the urges came.

But what if they didn’t? What if they too had been conquered in the push for sobriety? Mindfulness, distance, observance of physical “needs” that weren’t – they were simply wants or electrochemical responses to an excess or deficit of minerals and vitamins in the body. Perhaps one day scientists would learn the secret so obvious it had been ignored. Perhaps one day they would prevent addiction by getting people to regulate their bodies and minds.

She knew this, but he didn’t. He had been told, but it was by her and what husband actually listens to his wife? So many felt challenged when their wives were better – better at cooking and child-rearing was acceptable. But see what happens if she is more intelligent or makes more money. His male ego is challenged and he feels he has to put her in her place. Either with words or fists, it doesn’t matter. Only when they learned to tame their internal demon did they become human.

It wasn’t about suppressing it or eliminating it. Those actions were impossible and were the root of some particularly nasty neuroses. Men, like women, had to learn how to live with the shadow side and let it work for them. It could help to alert the person when boundaries were being pushed, if not violated.

But he hadn’t done any of that work. He was haunted by the voices of his dead parents. They spoke words of chastisement to him, telling him he was stupid or lazy or worthless. They spoke through his voice now, in words of anger directed at himself, by himself.

She had married him – not his parents. Her vows were to him, not them. She never promised in writing or verbally to take care of them and she certainly didn’t want to live with them even their ghosts. The house was small enough as is. Even if it was just the two of them physically there, the ghosts of his parents were an unwelcome presence. She wouldn’t share space with them, and told him so.

He wouldn’t evict his parents from his head, though. Perhaps it was a sense of loyalty to them – to kick them out of his head was not to hear from them at all. Bad voices were better than none. He felt it was a betrayal to stand up to them. That is what they had taught him – obey. Don’t question. We are the authorities. They had taught him too well – built a wall around him so high and so strong that he never even thought to break out.

Perhaps that was the mark of an adult – once you finally broke out from the conditioning and the stories that you had grown up with. Once you finally tapped your inner strength and pecked your way out. No escape equals a slow death, a suffocation.

Baby birds didn’t know they had a shell around them – it was all they saw, it was their world. It takes great risk to break free. They have no idea what is behind beyond that shell. All they know is that the pain of remaining where they are is too much to endure.

He, at nearly 50, was still in the shell, still reacting and not acting. Still passive, a life lived defensively, every slight a surprise. Perhaps she could have tolerated this if she’d not gotten sober. Perhaps then she wouldn’t have noticed the glaring holes in his soul. But there was no going back now, so they lived apart. Divorce was not an option. Still married, still in the same house, still sharing time and bank accounts. But not a bed, not even a bedroom.

She had to be alone to recharge from her work, days filled with needy, empty people, people who wanted more than the services provided. They needed companionship, validation, approval. They wanted someone to talk to or at, but not with. They were lonely and empty and hungry and never satisfied and they expected her to fill the holes – not her specifically, but someone, anyone. The clerk at the gas station would do, but it was often too busy there. Her workplace was slower and encouraged tarrying. They didn’t feel they were taking up her time when they trapped her with their tirades.At the end of the day she just didn’t have the energy to endure one more empty soul, one more hungry ghost. Perhaps one day he’d see how he was haunted and he’d start to exorcise them. But until then they lived apart and yet together, sharing a life if not a home.

Swimming lesson

Behind this door was his study group. They had met here every Thursday for a dozen years or more. He’d lost track.

In the beginning he kept a log of every time he went, as a reminder, as a memento. The memory of the past inspired the future. It was a long drive in the morning before work but his schedule allowed for it. Any other usual schedule and he wouldn’t have been able to. He didn’t have enough vacation time to ask off two hours every week, and he didn’t want to call attention to his actions.

Interesting how his culture loudly proclaimed its vices but downplayed its virtues. Smoking, sex, sloth, were publicly praised but sanctity was private. How could people choose the narrow path they didn’t know about it? Misery had to love company, because being righteous was a lonely path.

The door was unassuming, unmarked. If you knew where to look you could find it. The class was mentioned on the website, but far down, nearly hidden. Like the door, you would never happen across it unless you were meant to, or you were told by a member.

Very few people were told. Not for a lack of need. No, many people were drowning in the sea of addiction, but most were not willing to learn to swim. Most who admitted they were sinking expected a rescue – a boat, a life-raft. The only true rescue was to stay in the water and learn how to swim – not against the waves but with them.

The group knew how to swim – each and every one of them. Some simply flipped over and let the waves carry them where they may. Some used the energy to work their body and get stronger. Relax or resist – the goal was the same. Don’t drown. Quit fighting.

They sat in a circle and swam in the sea of time, with scripture as their anchor, yet also their sail. It buoyed them up yet also kept them stable. It was the only thing keeping them alive in the world gone mad with dis-ease.

Time-slip. Abandoned project #5

Savanna could see the open door, plain as day, but she chose not to walk through. Not yet. It would disturb the counselors. She’d been in this particular asylum for two days now, and wasn’t yet bored. They treated her well enough, as well as could be expected, you understand. A time in the loony bin wasn’t a vacation by any stretch. The food was okay, and the beds were nicer than those in a real hospital, that was for sure. They weren’t hospital quality, of course, but they didn’t have the weird side-rails either.

Maybe tonight she would walk out and look at the stars. They never let the patients out to see the stars, or even the sun. Fresh air was forbidden to them, as if their disease was catching, like it could spread in the air. They were locked away in theory for their own good but really it was for the community. It wouldn’t do to have any sort of weakness on display. It was like how some communities banned homeless people from selling newspapers on street corners out of embarrassment that they were proof that homeless people lived within their boundaries.

She’d walk out as she always did. She would simply walk forward, shifting her vision to the past, back to before the building was there. She’d done this for most of her life. It would get her out of here. It was also what happened to get her into here.

Perhaps her unusual gift was a side effect of her amblyopia. Her eyes hadn’t worked together her whole life. Abnormal vision was her normal. She’d learned to switch her vision from her left eye to her right, because she didn’t have bifocal vision. Her eye doctors didn’t like it one bit that she could switch, didn’t understand it. But it made sense. You make do with what you have. You make it work, even when others think it is broken. If you don’t know otherwise, “broken” becomes a blessing, because it teaches you to see in other ways. Sometimes literally.

While figuring out how to use her (unknown to her) defective eyes, she learned to see the space between time, the shimmering edge between “then” and “now”. These days, Savannah calls this a time-slip, but then she wasn’t aware that what she was doing was any different from anyone else. She could push that shimmering line a little, bend it, fold it back upon itself. Then it was just a little effort more to focus with her inner eye to see what used to be. Thankfully her crib had been on the first floor or she would have been in for a terrible drop the first time she tried her talent.

The first time she tried she was six months old. She shifted back to long before the house was there, before the subdivision, before the town even. She fell 3 feet from what was the first floor of the house onto a rolling hill. Breath knocked out of her, she sputtered in her amazement and suddenly found herself in her own time again, but this time falling into the basement. Her Mama found her there, wailing and dirty near the abandoned coal chute. They never did figure out how she got there. She certainly didn’t know, and at that age wasn’t able to tell even if she did.

That experience stuck with her, and over the course of her childhood she learned how to stay in the past longer and walk around. When her Sunday School teacher told the class about Peter walking out of prison she had an idea it wasn’t an angel who helped, but she wasn’t saying. She knew better by then to not talk about it.

She’d noticed that her ability wasn’t just unusual, it was downright unheard-of. After a few tentative efforts to inquire about it, she learned it was better to keep silent. If nothing else, it made games of hide and go seek much easier.

She learned she could walk to wherever she wanted to while she was in the past and then refocus and return to the present. By that point she could be on the other side of the playground or the neighborhood. She could stay hidden for as long as she wanted, or if she was “it” she could pop in on her prey without making a sound. After a while the other kids stopped playing with her, but she didn’t mind. This gave her more time to play with her friends in the past.

They were native children, who had lived here long ago, but had been dispersed when the whites came. They were like wild animals to these new settlers, who were fleeing religious persecution. It was too bad that their religious practice didn’t extend to seeing the natives as neighbors. The natives were relocated – land was found hundreds of miles away. It wasn’t the same quality of land, but it was somewhere, and the whites thought them ungrateful for not accepting their “charity”. The thought never occurred to them that if they had lived in harmony instead of pushing the inhabitants out that such kindness of a gift of scrubland wouldn’t be necessary.

When she was on her early wanders, Savanna had thankfully shifted into a time before all that unpleasantness, a time before the natives had reason to be wary. Plus, she was a child. Nobody felt threatened by a child.

But this was now, and the amusement of being in a loony bin was wearing thin. She wasn’t afraid like most of the residents. She knew she wasn’t trapped. The counselors and doctors didn’t know (or didn’t care) that their locked-door policy only made the symptoms worse for the residents. Large signs warning of patients “eloping” were affixed to the doors to warn visitors to not let a patient sneak out as they left.

There was no sneaking out now. She’d had her supper and the night shift was signing in. It was as good a time as any. She squinted and saw the shimmer of time bunch up. A twist, a shift and she was over the threshold, neat as you please. She walked out into the twilight painted field and went west towards the sunset. A mile later and she shifted back near a corner café with a payphone. She had researched this place a year ago when she moved to the area. It was best to be prepared. She knew the area around the jail too, just in case. Fortunately she had not concerned anyone enough to get put in there, but you never knew. Some small towns didn’t know the difference between dangerous and delusional so they ended up erring on the side of caution.

How has she ended up in this hospital? A time-slip wander that led to a fall, and a trip to a regular hospital had been the beginning. She had not planned on that wander, not that time. She was tired, overworked. Not enough “work/life balance” as her job prattled on about. She mused that if they really cared they would let her work less and pay her the same. Five days of work with two days off wasn’t balanced no matter how you did the math. This was especially true when most of her time off was spent doing chores and errands. When was she supposed to have some of that “me” time that people were always going on about?

That Thursday afternoon she had wandered at lunch and never came back to work. She was found, unconscious, near the river. She had gone back two hundred years before the river had come this far west, before the flood that had rerouted it almost overnight. She had gone back without thought, without plan and lost her bearings in the foggy haze of sleep deprivation and anxiety which had become her normal over the past year. She had spent so long feeling bad that feeling good was a distant memory. She would have been suspicious of it if it had dared to show up.

But then she slipped and knocked her head while “then”, so she woke up “now”, her head bruised. She forgot what had happened, forgot to keep her mouth shut too when she was found, and babbled on about the past and her native friends, and that very night found her the newest resident of the funny farm.

Yet it wasn’t funny at all, and it certainly wasn’t a farm. If it had been either, or both, maybe it could have done some good for its hapless residents. As it was, it only made things worse with its insistence on mind-bending drugs and no exercise out in the fresh air. Her time-slip wander was the only way to get out in under a week, when most were freed in eleven days. Not because they were healed, you understand. That was just when the insurance money ran out.

But now she was out, and it was time to look for a new place to live. It wouldn’t do for word to get out that she was less than normal. She’d have to be more diligent in the next town. All this moving was getting old.

(The photo was found on Pinterest. Unknown photographer or location.)